Miss in the midfield

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  • Published 5.04.06

I am original; I started before that, Mayanti Langer is quick to retort at the mention of Bend It Like Beckham. The svelte 21-year-old is the ?only woman football anchor? on Indian beam today.

But before you add her to the list of eye candies that cricket coverage has given birth to, here?s some news. The pretty Kashmiri girl started out as a defender in a junior league and so she knows what she?s talking about. ?I know the game and I am the associate producer of my show as well. There is as much research, editing and conceptualising in my job as anchoring,? she stresses. ?And the channel never asks me to wear revealing clothes.?

Mayanti has been on the ball since she was nine, playing soccer over the weekends with other kids in the local park in New York. Her father, an armyman, was posted there on UN duty. ?I started as a defender and then developed into a mid-fielder, a position I admire most.?

On coming to Delhi as a teenager, she signed up with a football academy. ?It was run by our principal?s husband Mr Adams,? recounts the former student of Shriram School.

The next step was a part-time job as a co-ordinator with a football league for girls. ?I was in first year in college then.? It?s around this time that Bend It? happened.

And Mayanti was a witness to how Gurinder Chadha?s film drew schoolgirls in Delhi to a sport traditionally regarded as a boy bastion. ?When I joined school, I was the only girl playing in the team. By the time I entered college, there were 60!?

But these girls, mostly from the top city schools, took to the sport more as a fitness fad. No one went on to make a career out of football like she did.

Joining Zee Sports barely two weeks after appearing for her graduation exams, Mayanti made friends with the microphone over Serie A and Bundesliga action. ?Those were pre-match, half-time and post-match shows. Mind you, all those six months I did not have a clue to Indian football.? Once Zee acquired the rights to IFA tournaments in August 2005, she was baptised by the fire of football commentary. ?Sixteen days of on-ground coverage of Federation Cup in Goa was my acid test.?

Mayanti survived and how. Today she even has her own magazine show, Football Cafe, which shows the human face of the Indian stars. On her first visit to Calcutta, she chirps, ?Yes, this was the Mecca of Indian football. But now you?ve got competition in Goa. There, they don?t even talk cricket!?

Ask her to name her favourite player, and she rattles off: ?A great save by Subrata Paul, a great goal by Barreto, a great cross by Viviano, a great run by Mukhtar... Tell me, who do I choose??